Happy New Year!!

New Year's Day postcard circa 1900

Just to wish you all a good time tonight and all the best for 2012.  This past year has been quite an eyeopener for me, and if I look back I can see that there has been definite progress.  A radical improvement in health, a definite improvement in happiness – it all bodes well for the coming year.  I do concern myself too much with resolutions but there are some that need to be seen through to the bitter, or not-so-bitter end.  Here’s hoping.

The most important one to me is to move house – I’ve been saying this for a while now and it hasn’t happened, but I’ve done my best not to rush at it because the last time I did so it was a disaster! My current flat is lovely but I would love more privacy and a small garden – I dream of being able to get up in the summer and wander outside with a cup of coffee;  to be able to sit in the sunshine with a good book and a nice cold beer.  A bigger kitchen is also desired!!!  How many other people are sitting at home wishing for the same?

However, I will reconsider these things in the cold and hungover light of New Year’s Day – until then, once again, I wish all of you a really wonderful New Year and may it turn out to be your best year yet.






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‘Leon – Naturally Fast Food’ (Book 2)

I’ve just got back from my sister’s house – lots of lovely food, all the family there.  It was really nice to see everyone together.   My nieces, (8, and 1) and nephew, (5), were as boisterous as usual, but very funny – the youngest one, Laila, has learned to ‘high five’ which she now insists on doing every time she sees me, after carefully handing me her excavated mince pie – (eat the mince, leave the pastry).

But I digress.  I actually wanted to rave about a cookery book I received from my youngest sister and her boyfriend – it’s fabulous, (although I think I say that about all the books I read).  It’s a collection of the recipes from a small chain of very well reviewed fast food restaurants, Leon, which I am ashamed to say I’d never heard of,  but both my sisters assure me that the food is wonderful.  The book I have is actually book 2, and I now have book one on my Amazon wishlist.

As well as the recipes there are a couple of pages dedicated to lists of store cupboard essentials, plus party menus, drinks and,  most importantly, the ethos of Leon, which is to provide high quality fast food that is as fast to prepare as it is to cook, and nutritional to boot.  I am so looking forward to starting on this book, as well as ‘Italia’ and ‘Kitchen Diaries’.

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Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly…

Among the wonderful presents I’ve received this Christmas is ‘Antonio Carluccio‘s Italia’, one of those cookery books you can read after eating a five course meal and it makes you feel so hungry that you could eat said meal all over again.  It’s truly stunning.

Each chapter outlines the culinary heritage of each region of Italy, with history, recipes and beautiful photography.  I was sitting up last night at half twelve with a large plate of buttered water biscuits, a thick slice of roast ham and two mince pies, making plans as to what I was going to cook first and trying not to drool on the pages.  I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to the New Year and all the cooking that I have planned.  The first thing I have to do is to invest in some decent notebooks so that I can collate all the recipes that are scribbled on various greasy scraps of paper – I go to people’s houses and beg for bits of paper so that I can copy things down and then get home and just leave them on the kitchen table.  Perhaps a travelling notebook is in order…

Anyway, as of next week, I will be happy at home with a full fridge and heaving cupboards, and I will share some of the recipes in this book.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!


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Happy Christmas!

Mince pie on wire rack.

Image via Wikipedia because there aren't any left of mine....

Well, I’m here in East Yorkshire – it’s freezing outside but warm in here.  Just made a dozen mince pies which have been much appreciated and I’m planning to have a beer very soon.  All the presents are wrapped and there’s an 18 pound goose in the fridge for dinner tomorrow, not to mention all the sweets, crisps, cake, pies and various other lovely goodies waiting for me to pounce!

Anyway, I hope that you all have a really lovely day tomorrow and that you get everything you wanted.  I’ll be back in the New Year – with the amount of money that I’ve spent I’ll probably be starting a new blog – ‘How To Cook On A Budget’ or ‘101 Potato Recipes’.  I don’t really care – I’m going to go and drink my beer and enjoy myself.


Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year to you all!!

Nina x


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I Humbly Apologise For Being A Grinch

I have been so bad tempered, its not good. So I apologise. Things are looking up and I’m actually looking forward to Christmas.
One thing that sparked this change of attitude is something I heard on the local radio station today. There was a news bulletin about a family whose house burned down  today. Luckily nobody was hurt but they’ve lost everything, just a few days before Christmas. Anyway,within an hour of the story being broadcast, the staff of the radio station had offered to buy all the Christmas presents the family had lost, a landlord phoned in and offered a house free of charge, and many others have offered all the furniture and loads of money to help the family out. People of South Yorkshire are amazing.

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Last Minute Shopping – Don’t.

When I die I am going to be canonised as the patron saint of Last Minute Shopping – St. Nina of the Gentle Breakdown.  I’m going to ensure that the city council erect a forty foot statue at the top of Fargate, (our main town shopping street), where the benevolent sweep of my outstretched arms shall belie the baleful glare of my ruby eyes.  There will be a pool at my gold plated feet where weary, weeping shoppers can throw their credit cards, (or themselves), and a machine inside my evilly grinning mouth will be primed to deliver a malevolent cackle every fifteen minutes which will terrify screaming, tantrum throwing children into silence for at least three days.

Next year I am going to start shopping in February.


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The Best Food For A Self-Pity Festival

Español: Cebolla siendo cortada.


Last night, I decided to make a cheese and onion tart for dinner.  It’s a really lovely recipe and high on my list of comfort food, mainly because it includes double cream and caramelised onions which enhance it to a great degree.  Ive not been sleeping very well and the resultant pityfest inspired me to spoil myself with something rich and highly calorific.


While I was slicing the onions I included my finger, (sorry Richard), and then, just as I’d finished greasing the dish I was going to use, I dropped it on the floor and it smashed into pieces.  (Rule No.1 – Don’t cook if you’ve gone for more than 24 hours without sleep).  So I improvised by using a dish my mother gave me a few years ago – I normally use it if I’m making myself a rice pudding but it’s not too deep and it did the trick.  I had just put the finished article in the oven and closed the door when I happened to look on top of the cooker and there, in a pan, were the caramelised onions waiting to go into the filling.  I won’t repeat what I said next but I had to open the door again and hastily stir the onions into the mix.


Anyhow, all’s well that ends well- it was gorgeous and I washed it down with a very nice glass or three of rosé.  I’m not sure if that’s the correct type of wine to go with cheese and onion tart but I never claimed to be a wine buff and it was fine for me.  The recipe is below, I highly recommend it.


Cheese and Onion Tart



Shortcrust pastry to line 24cm tart tin (200g flour, 100g fat)

2 large red onions, 2 large white onions, finely sliced

3-4 tbsps olive oil

Large knob of butter

1 tsp soft brown sugar

4 spring onions, sliced

1 sprig each of rosemary and thyme, finely chopped

2 large eggs

100mls double cream

150g cheddar cheese, grated


Put the olive oil and a knob of butter into a heavy pan on a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until softened, stirring from time to time. After ten minutes add the sugar, reduce the heat and continue to cook them gently until the onions are soft, dark and sticky.   Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the pastry, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  When the pastry has rested, roll out and line the tart tin,  bake blind at Gas Mark 6 for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside.


Lightly beat the eggs, then mix in the cheese, caramelised onions, spring onions, cream and herbs.  When the pastry has cooled, add the mixture and return to the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a green salad or whatever you prefer.


Bon appetit!




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Christmas Is Coming – Bah, Humbug

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...

Top Bloke

It’s around this time of the season that I begin to think that Scrooge was a really great bloke with some phenomenally forward thinking ideas.  Trying to shop at this time of year is a nightmare.  Every Consumer Temple from High Street to shopping mall is teeming with Consumer Zombies clutching three feet long lists and pushing two trollies at a time.  Newsflash:  The supermarket is not going to run out of food.  Your children will not run away if you don’t buy them a Playstation.  Just because someone is famous it will not make their perfume smell better. Get.A.Grip.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am well into my Seasonal Eating Plan.  Said plan is not an alarming indication that I have problems with eating – far from it – but if you could only see the amount of food that I am expected to put away at my parents’ house you would understand the method.  Basically, The S.E.P begins in October, or thereabouts and it involves increasing my food intake, from what would be considered normal for a 6 footer with a healthy appetite, to being able to  accommodate the equivalent of a Sunday lunch for four at one sitting.

 My mother is a wonderful cook.  She is also a great believer in not being able to see the edge of the plate when she serves Christmas dinner.  It’s no good trying to ask for less – I’ve been trying for twenty-odd years but she suffers from seasonal selective-deafness disorder.   Various entreaties, such as “Please don’t give me too much”, or  “No thanks I’ve really had enough” are met with deliberate ignorance and another pound of goose.  It’s no use, either, if I offer to serve instead, she’s not having any of it.  Each plate of  food is a foot high  monument to culinary glory and no-one is going to thwart her.  OK, maybe a foot is a slight exaggeration but  I can guarantee that  Boxing Day will find me plundering the bathroom cabinet for Rennies and making fervent promises to myself that next year I will be in Spain/ France/ the Arctic Circle, eating  3 ordinary meals per day in a hotel room whilst  watching endless crap TV. And no shopping.
So, in the New Year,  I’ll be making my usual halfhearted resolutions to join a gym, a walking group and a therapy circle for Beleaguered Daughters.  Or making plans to emigrate.

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Giorgio Locatelli – `Made In Italy: Food And Stories’

Cover of "Made in Italy: Food and Stories...

Cover of Made in Italy: Food and Stories

This is a beautiful book, and exactly how a cookery book should be written.  It’s not just a collection of recipes and photographs of the results, but a whole story of where the chef grew up and who influenced him.  It documents the food he ate as a child and discovered as he grew up,  anecdotes of his family and adventures he’s been on, and how he became successful.

The photographs also help to tell the stories – it’s genuinely a pleasure to read and the recipes are fabulous,divided into seven sections:  Antipasti;  Zuppa;  Risotto;  Pasta;  Pesce;  Carne;  Dolci.

None of them are impossibly difficult, and the ones I have tried have produced meals that I could eat over and over again.  If I could reproduce one of the photos here I would – my all time favourite is a photograph of  pieces of focaccia classica on a wooden board – simple but beautiful and will, like all the others, encourage you to make it just so that you can taste how beautiful it looks!

If you are in the mood for buying a new cookery book, or asking for one for a present, I highly recommend this – you won’t regret it.


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Empty The Fridge

English: Tomato soup served hot or cold.

Image via Wikipedia

I had no idea what to cook  tonight.  I’ve had a horrible cold for two days and just couldn’t be bothered to go shopping so it was a fridge raid – not that there was a lot to go on.  Anyway, spring onions, half a yellow and a red pepper, cherry tomatoes, passata;  the remains of a bag of rice and a teaspoon of smoked paprika and I had , with the addition of vegetable stock, a very nice tomato soup.  And  it was ready in time for me to watch ‘Masterchef:The Professionals’. *mutters rude word*.

Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire. Tourism is one o...

At the moment it’s the semifinals so there are two of the contestants in an incredibly upmarket restaurant, first cooking service and then for the head chef of the restaurant.  Tonight they’re at Gleneagles in Scotland, ( 2 Michelin stars and a swankygolf course. ), and they’re both getting their timings completely out.    Obviously, I’m so talented that I regularly serve an eight course dégustation menu whilst looking after hyperactive 2 year old octuplets and selling my Picasso collection to Sothebys over the phone.  God, I’m a legend.

Anyway, back to reality – (I think I need to cut back on the Lemsip) – tomorrow is bread baking  day, and I might just have to indulge in jam tarts and biscuits as well.  If I’m going to feel sorry for myself then I need to do it with plenty of sugar.  Roll on the weekend – Christmas shopping, via Waitrose…

Bye for now. *sniff*

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